Imagining the dark days to come

What I started dreaming about once I had everything I ever dreamt of

As most kids do growing up, I liked to indulge in fantasy about striking it rich. Fill my head with make-believe purchases and extravagances. It was a fun game.

Now that I’ve struck gold and have all the money a reasonable mortal could desire, I still occasionally day dream about riches. Except now it’s about losing it all. And it’s not so much a game as an exercise.

Imagining life after you hit the rocks is a great way to prepare for shipwreck and heartache, both likely to hit most people at some point in their lives. Stoics practice this under the banner of negative visualization, and it’s a powerful tool regardless your current life status.

Maybe it’s morbid, but I’ve come to enjoy such negative visualization a lot more than I ever did the positive visualization.

I used to dream about which supercars to buy. Now I have fantasies about losing them all. All possessions, all riches. It’s surprisingly stimulating.

In fact, it’s become hard to even stomach the reverence our current culture places on these aspirational fantasies. Those cheesy motivational posters, the books about MANIFESTING SUCCESS, the Instagram posts with the cursive fonts reminding you to reach for the stars, the world is over-supplied of reminders to think positive when it comes to personal fortunes.

Okay, not all negative visualization makes for a fun walk in the park of despair. Preparing for tragedy on the level of a health calamity or family disaster is never going to be easy or entertaining. But I do leave even such thought exercises with a greater appreciation and love for all the things and people I hold dear.

Such self examination helps put most passions in perspective. When weighing the joys and toys of wealth against the joys and toils of creation, flow, and relations, it becomes ever so clear just how the scales tip towards the latter.

But, like with positive visualization, I’m mindful of how easy it is to romanticize imaginary outcomes. To get lost in the fantasy, and underestimate the hardship of reality (just as most overestimate the ecstasy of the upside).

At the end of the day both negative and positive visualization serve to broaden your acceptance of potential outcomes. To live and love a full life regardless of how it plays out. To Amor Fati, loving your fate.

Now, as per usual when I write about wealth, I’ll preempt the inevitable criticism that “it’s easy for you to say now”. Because it is! That doesn’t mean that most wealthy people I’ve met share these sentiments. I’ve met more miserable rich people who harbor a deep fear of setback than I have those willing, even in theory, to accept or even indulge in such a possibility.

Fear and want are two sides of the same coin. The upside or the downside are unlikely to change your life as much as you imagine it will. It’s not the actual situation that determines your state of mind but how you react to it.

Regularly exercising the mind to withstand the oscillations of life is important as working out. It takes effort to keep your spirit from getting flabby.

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